One of the first planning tasks scientists undertake when developing a monitoring program for an area is to conceptualise the critical habitats, processes and impacts that make up an ecosystem.
Developing conceptual models is a good way to capture the current level of knowledge about how an ecosystem works and it also helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page before designing a monitoring program that can assess ecosystem health and changes.
The conceptual models developed for the Tamar estuary were developed by the TEER Scientific and Technical Committee as part of the Ecosystem Health Assessment Program (EHAP). They demonstrate the current level of knowledge about the processes and impacts on the Tamar estuary.
The models are dynamic and the aim is to add further information and data to them as our knowledge of the ecosystem improves. The models are a good communication tool and have been developed using symbols and icons so that technical information can be conveyed in an easy to understand format.